Tim likes to travel. Follow his adventures as he explores the world.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Buñol, Spain: La Tomatina 2015

Happy 70th birthday La Tomatina!

We drove to Valencia the night before and stayed at a pretty sweet Airbnb place that Alex found. Aside from the lack of air conditioning (it was so hot) and wifi (who doesn't have wifi???), the apartment was cheap and well-located. We walked around the city a bit and then headed back to the apartment, since we have to be at the bus at 730 the next morning. 

We wake up the next morning, dress ourselves in clothes we plan to never see again, and walk toward where the bus is supposed to pick us up. Greg booked the bus tickets with a company that was not the main company running the buses for la tomatina. So, we walk around for half an hour, asking different bus drivers where to find our bus, and no one knows. We even walk to the bus station to ask them, but they know nothing either. Finally, on our way back from the bus station, we stop and ask another driver, who points us in the right direction, and we  get on our bus. Obviously, not many people have heard of this company because there are only 15 people on the bus, including us and the driver.

Tomatina or bust
Tomatina or bust

We arrive in Buñol, about a 15 minute walk from the center, where the actual tomato fight is. With all of the other buses (a surprising majority of which are packed with Asian tourists), we pull into a parking lot and then head the rest of the way on foot. I noticed throughout the day that there was significantly less cigarette smoke at this event than any other event I've been to in Spain, and Greg pointed out that its because there are so many Americans and guiris

We go to the check-in to get our wristband entrance passes, and then head into the main street. It's about an hour before the event starts, and the street is already filling up. We are jam packed between two rows of buildings and there is little wiggle room. If you have claustrophobia (fear of tight spaces) or anthropophobia (fear of crowded places) or lycopersicoaphobia (fear of tomatoes), do not go to this event. The buildings where owners want to watch the fight, have their windows covered with mosquito netting. Some of the locals are throwing tomatoes and water from their windows and balconies. So, there are 10 or 15 tomatoes circulating the area, being thrown by whomever it hits or catches it. This one guy hit me like three times, so Alex and I made it a point to get him back. 

Finally, we hear the chupinazo, and the people go crazy, screaming and preparing themselves. Everyone puts their googles on and waits for the tomato trucks. The first one arrives and there are volunteers in front of the trucks pushing people to the sides of the street. The little wiggle room we had just turned into absolutely no wiggle room, slash, you are going to get to know the people next to you super intimately for the next few minutes. Inside the back of the dump truck, there are more volunteers throwing tomatoes out at the people, and not just tossing them out, but pelleting them at us. Once the first truck passes, we fill the street again and start throwing tomatoes. Some people are not crushing the tomatoes and when they hit you, it hurts... and you want revenge. 


Locals throwing tomatoes from the roof
Locals throwing tomatoes from the roof

The next truck comes by, but it is about twice as big as the last one, and it stops right where we are, and dumps the tomatoes out the back of the truck. Now we have an enormous pile of ammunition and it is a free-for-all. The people around you become your allies and you try to block incoming tomatoes from hitting them, and they cover you back. There are small girls everywhere and they can't see anything, and are just throwing tomatoes at random, sometimes hitting the people right next to them in the face. We are sweating and our goggles are fogging up, so we valiantly/stupidly remove them, so we can see better.

As the fight continues, another truck comes and I have the genius idea of scaling the wall to see if I can get a better view of whats happening. Bad idea. I became "the super sexy black guy on the wall that we all have to hit with as many tomatoes as possible, and throw them as hard as possible, and aim for his face". I couldn't get down because the people below me were so compacted together that I was stuck until the trucks moved. Then, we had another genius idea of filling the large sangria cups, that everyone bought earlier while drinking and partying, and filling them with, what is now tomato slush, about 3 inches thick, in the street. Only problem is, your hands are slippery and you just end up throwing a cup of tomato slush at someone. 

As we near the end of the fight, Greg mentions that he got hit in the eye. Well, we all did, and just wiped our eyes and continued on. But, he was adamant that there was something wrong and that we needed to get to cover. Well, cover was about 100m away and through a crowd of a thousand people, so we ducked our heads, latched on to each other, and started trekking for an exit. The street is now covered with about 5 inches of tomato slush and as we are making our way out, we hear the chupinazo again, signaling the end of the fight. We see an ambulance at one of the emergency exits, and we walk toward it, and Greg talks with the medic. We have to wait because the guy in front of us has a 4-inch cut in his skull and they have to shave and stitch him up first. 



The volunteers making way for the trucks
The volunteers (in pink) making way for the trucks

While we wait, Alex and I go to one of the hundreds of locals washing people off, and we pick the first one, who is a young teenager, doing an awful job of rinsing people off, and is demanding people's googles in exchange. Later, we realized going to him was a bad idea. Where the ambulance is, there is a family helping the medics from their house, and they give Greg a mini-bath and chair to sit on, and were very nice to all of the injured people. Then, we end up walking to the police station with Greg, where we hop in another ambulance and they decide Greg needs to go to the hospital, as they cannot treat him there.

Alex and I catch our bus back to Valencia, shower off, and then head to the hospital to pick Greg up. His story is amazing and quite funny (now that we know he is ok). Apparently, he was wearing contacts and when the tomato hit him in the eye, it broke the contact and scratched his cornea. He has to wear an eye patch for a couple of days and put in drops every couple of hours. 

When we get back to the apartment, Greg decides to sleep, as he has one eye permanently closed, and Alex and I head to the beach, because we're so supportive

20,000 people ready to throw tomatoes
20,000 people ready to throw tomatoes

Guiri power!
Guiri powers activated!

Clean guys on a clean street
Clean guys on a clean street (Greg, Alex, and me)

Goggles on, so you know its time for business
Goggles on, so you know its time for business

First truck on its way
First truck on its way


video
Pretty much sums up the experience


Tomato-covered selfie
Tomato-covered selfie 

Second truck was a large dump truck full of tomatoes
Second truck was a large dump truck full of tomatoes

Alex protecting the helpless and Greg enjoying the ride
Alex protecting the helpless and Greg enjoying the ride

Cups filled and ready to be thrown
Cups filled and ready to be thrown

Sometimes we do dumb things. This was one of those times
Sometimes we do dumb things. This was one of those times

Dirty guys on a dirty street
Dirty guys on a dirty street

The river of tomato below
The river of tomato below

Man down! Medic! Wait, in Spanish: Hombre downo! Medico!
Man down! Medic! Wait, in Spanish: Hombre downo! Medico!

Consoling/making fun of my buddy when he's down, like a good friend
Consoling/making fun of my buddy when he's down, like a good friend

Alex, and everyone else on the bus, all tuckered out
Alex, and everyone else on the bus, all tuckered out



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Location: 46360 Buñol, Valencia, España

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